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How Do Golfers Qualify For The Masters

By: | Thu 27 Jan 2022 | Comments

There’s much debate about what the best men's major championship is, whether that be from an entertainment or participant perspective.

The U.S. Open typically produces the toughest test in professional golf, whilst The Open Championship celebrates the origins of the sport.

The Masters, however, is the only men's major championship that is played at a consistent venue, and it just so happens to arguably be the most exclusive golf club in the world.

There’s a reason why the green jacket means so much to players: the venue, the golf course, the spectators, the Champion’s Dinner, the trophy, the history, the heritage and perhaps the most attractive, an annual chance for golfers to etch their name amongst golfing elite.

Yes, it’s safe to assume that The Masters has always been - and more than likely will always be - a significant event in professional sport, let alone golf.

Remember we mentioned the exclusivity that is associated with Augusta National Golf Club? That isn’t solely applicable to amateurs, as getting an invite into this monumental event is not as straightforward as a simple online application.

No, to earn the right to play at Augusta during competition week, you have to have accomplished something considerable to stand a chance.

However, qualification has changed significantly over the years, but some categories do remain the same.

In 1972, qualification routes involved: Top 24 players and ties from the previous Masters, members of the U.S. 1971 Ryder Cup team and members of the 1971 U.S. Walker Cup team.

In 1982, U.S. Amateur semi-finalists were invited to the following Masters, and the top 16 players and ties from the previous U.S. Open were also invited.

The criteria from 1992 started to mirror the categories of qualification today, but they still issued invites to the U.S. Amateur Public Links champion.

In 2022, there are 19 categories that offer qualification for the prestigious event, and there is ample opportunity for professionals to secure their tee time in Georgia.

Below, we note each potential route for glory and provide a couple of examples of players who have qualified from each category.

Masters Tournament Champions (Lifetime)

Fred Couples

The first category, that will issue lifetime access to the first major of the golf season, is ultimately the division that everyone wants to belong to. Ian Woosnam, the 1991 victor, had been playing every year since his famous victory but recently told his Twitter followers that he would no longer accept the invitation. Winning this tournament results in lifetime qualification, and who does not want to play Augusta every 12 months?!

  • Fred Couples
  • Zach Johnson
  • Bernhard Langer
  • Bubba Watson

U.S. Open Champions (Honorary, non-competing after five years)

Anyone who has a U.S. Open title to their name from the previous five years will be issued an invite into The Masters. However, players can qualify from more than one category - Jon Rahm effectively has six invites into this year’s tournament! - and it is only Gary Woodland who has relied on this category to ensure his presence for the 2022 Masters.

  • Bryson DeChambeau
  • Jon Rahm
  • Brooks Koepka
  • Gary Woodland

The Open Champions (Honorary, non-competing after five years)

The third category is almost a direct copy of the second, only this time players who have triumphed in the United Kingdom over the last five years will be issued an invite. There are only four players who qualify from the third category this year and whilst Shane Lowry, Jordan Spieth and Collin Morikawa would have secured their invite anyway, Francesco Molinari will only attend through his 2018 Open Championship victory at Carnoustie.

  • Shane Lowry
  • Collin Morikawa
  • Francesco Molinari
  • Jordan Spieth

PGA Champions (Honorary, non-competing after five years)

Similar criteria to the previous two, only this time for PGA Championship winners from 2017 onwards. There is not a single player who has solely relied on this category for entry.

  • Justin Thomas
  • Brooks Koepka
  • Phil Mickelson
  • Collin Morikawa

Winners of The Players Championship (Three years)

Not only does The Players Championship hold the largest purse on the PGA Tour, nor is it merely the flagship event on Tour either - it actually warrants access to The Masters that typically takes place a few weeks later. So, the winner will receive a $3.6 million sum, 600 FedEx Cup points (level with majors) and an invite into the most exclusive of them all. Some weekend for the champion, huh?

  • Justin Thomas
  • Rory McIlroy
  • Webb Simpson

Current Olympic Gold Medallist (One year)

Xander Schauffele may not have been crowned a major champion as of yet, but he has joined the likes of Justin Rose in becoming an Olympic champion. And it’s always important to look at the positives: 16 majors would have taken place until the next Olympic games! He did, however, secure qualification from several routes, so he’d be attending without the gold medal - although we’re sure he doesn’t want to give it back.

  • Xander Schauffele

Current U.S. Amateur Champion (7-A) (Honorary, non-competing after one year) and the runner-up (7-B) to the current U.S. Amateur Champion

Whilst we understand that the category may sound a little confusing, it’s arguably the most basic to feature. The U.S. Amateur, an event played by aspiring professional golfers who typically transition into professionalism, holds special importance. The winner and runner-up qualify for The Masters but with previous winners including Matt Fitzpatrick, Bryson DeChambeau, Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, an exciting career within the professional ranks awaits.

  • James Pilot (champion) (a)
  • Austin Greaser (runner-up) (a)

Current The Amateur Champion (Honorary, non-competing after one year)

The U.S. Amateur has rich history, dating back to 1895. The Amateur Championship is played in the British Isles and it is actually older than the U.S. version, having started in 1885. Unfortunately, the runner-up does not receive an invite so the only way to secure qualification is to win the event - and that’s no easy task. Congratulations to Laird Shephard who managed to oust the magnificent talent from last year’s event.

  • Laird Shephard (a)

Current Asia-Pacific Amateur Champion (One year)

Again, similar concept behind this category too. The winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur will be issued an invite to the following Masters tournament, which adds another element of spice - and pressure - to the amateur events.

  • Keita Nakajima (a)

Current Latin America Amateur Champion (One year)

The Latin America Amateur Championship is held on an annual basis and made in conjunction with Augusta National, The R&A and the United States Golf Association. It was introduced in 2015 and played at differing venues. Former champions include Joaquin Niemann and Alvaro Ortiz, who are starting to establish themselves on the PGA Tour.

  • Aaron Jarvis (a)

Current U.S. Mid-Amateur Champion (One year)

This one is interesting and effectively offers amateur golfers a once-in-a-lifetime experience of playing Augusta during competition week. The U.S. Mid-Amateur Golf Championship is organised by the USGA and played by post-college amateur golfers. Basically, competitors have to be 25 years old or older by the first day of the tournament and hold a handicap of 3.4 or lower. The likelihood is that professional golf may no longer be a viable career, but the opportunity to tee it up against the best in one of the greatest venues in the world is all the inspiration that is needed.

  • Stewart Hagestad (a)

The first 12 players, including ties, in the previous year’s Masters Tournament

Justin Rose

Picture this: you have had an excellent week in Georgia and heading down the stretch on Sunday, you find yourself only two back; you know you need to play aggressive and flag hunt. Sadly, a mistake on the 15th ends your tournament but you’ve finished in the top 12. You were close - really near to finishing in the top 5 - and you rightfully deserve another crack at the green jacket. Three players have relied on this category for invites this year, and they are Brian Harman, Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre and Kim Si-woo.

  • Tony Finau
  • Marc Leishman
  • Justin Rose
  • Corey Conners

The first four players, including ties, in the previous year’s U.S. Open

Sure, there are a small group of golfers who have fared well in a major championship but never put themselves in contention again. Whilst, yes, that has happened, positive performances in a major are typically followed by several more. Finishing in the top four of any major championship demonstrates you clearly possess what it takes to win one, and that is rewarded here with a Masters invite for the following year. Guido Migliozzi, the 25-year-old from Italy, finished T4th in last year’s U.S. Open and has secured his Masters debut as a consequence of that.

  • Harris English
  • Louis Oosthuizen
  • Guido Migliozzi

The first four players, including ties, in the previous year’s The Open Championship

Same story here, if you have managed to carve yourself an opportunity for major glory, you should absolutely be given the opening to go one better and win one. Good performances - regardless of victory or not - have always been rewarded and they continue to do so today.

  • Jon Rahm
  • Jordan Spieth
  • Louis Oosthuizen
  • Collin Morikawa

The first four players, including ties, in the previous year’s PGA Championship

Padraig Harrington

As you can see from the players who qualify from the previous category, every single one of them had already secured their place in this year’s edition. However, there are two players who will be grateful for their performance at Kiawah Island last year, as they have successfully qualified for The Masters as a result. Both Padraig Harrington and Harry Higgs would have been left with Augusta blues if it wasn’t for their fine display in South Carolina.

  • Padraig Harrington
  • Harry Higgs
  • Paul Casey
  • Shane Lowry

Individual winners of PGA Tour events that award a full-point allocation for the season-ending Tour Championship, from previous Masters to current Masters

We often forget all the additional bonuses that come with winning a PGA Tour event - it isn’t just about trophies or millions of dollars! As noted earlier, exemptions in golf determine who is playing where and it’s a system that works pretty efficiently. If anyone wins a ranking event that yields full FedEx Cup points, they’ll be issued an invite into the next Masters, it’s as simple as that. Cameron Champ, Cameron Davis, Lucas Glover, Garrick Higgo, Hudson Swafford and Lee Kyoung-hoon have all qualified from this category alone, so that win across the last 12 months is even sweeter.

  • Abraham Ancer
  • Patrick Cantlay
  • Rory McIlroy
  • Jason Kokrak

Players qualifying for the previous year’s season-ending Tour Championship

Exemptions, exemptions, exemptions. Ultimately exemptions are the root of all qualification routes, and this is no different. If you’ve qualified for the season-ending Tour Championship, you are within the top 30 players on the PGA Tour across the last 12 months. Basically, you’ve impressed heavily. Augusta want you to continue this good form and they’re willing to issue an invite to The Masters. Erik Van Rooyen is the only player who has relied on this category for entry to this year’s tournament.

  • Daniel Berger
  • Billy Horschel
  • Scottie Scheffler
  • Joaquin Niemann

The 50 leaders on the Final Official World Golf Ranking for the previous calendar year

If any golfer is within the confines of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings on the 31st of December, they will be issued an invite to the upcoming Masters tournament. This is, obviously, quite a long list and we will only note the players who have relied on this category to secure qualification for this year’s event.

  • Matt Fitzpatrick
  • Tommy Fleetwood
  • Tyrrell Hatton
  • Min Woo Lee
  • Ryan Palmer
  • Matthew Wolff
  • Lee Westwood

The 50 leaders on the Official World Golf Ranking published during the week prior to the current Masters Tournament

Unfortunately, we cannot supply a list of the players who have qualified from this category as it will be finalised on March 28, 2022. Until then, we can speculate and we can also assume that the majority of rankings won’t change too dramatically. However, this category is there for the golfer who shows promise during the first few months of the new season - Will Zalatoris benefitted from this last year and finished runner-up, whilst Robert MacIntyre came T12th to secure qualification for this year’s event. The exemptions are there for a reason and the two golfers noted above prove that they can offer additional opportunities.

That’s all 19 categories explored for Masters qualification - we’re sorry that your dreams have been cruelly ripped from you!

Whilst there are several routes for qualification, the criteria is particular and falling outside of the requirements will not lead to an invite.

However, as proven by the final category, qualifying through any means can result in further appearances and both Will Zalatoris and Robert MacIntyre will be hoping to emulate their impressive debuts.

Who do you think will be the next proud owner of the green jacket?

Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography

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